The DoT IG is not infallible; FAA’s use of ASIAS data is appropriate

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ARTICLE: Air safety: Inexcusable delay

funnelThis editorial strongly condemning the FAA for failing to disseminate Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing Program (ASIAS) data to the field is unfortunately based on a DoT Inspector General’s misguided report. Parts of the DoT IG’s inspector manual must be drawn from the Papal guidance on speaking ex cathedra. The Holy Father speaks infallibly on matters of faith and moral dogma. The DoT IG’s report on ASIAS fails to understand dogmatic elements of this data base.

First, many of the sources are submitted voluntarily and without the likelihood of enforcement (with limited exceptions). The specific information/incident, when it is submitted for inclusion in the ASIAS data base, is disaggregated. Providing the field personnel the raw report would not help that inspector or supervisor to take action with regard to an airline; because the specific references to people/airline are no longer there.

Further, if a clever local official could reverse engineer the report and would then take enforcement action, it would diminish the likelihood that a mechanic or pilot or airline manager would submit the necessary safety grit for this mill. That would deflate the integrity of this number accumulation.

The value of ASIAS, VDRP and associated data submission is to create a mass of data. Those numbers require sophisticated statistical analysis BEFORE any meaningful lessons can be learned. The beauty of this enhanced safety approach is collecting individual events from carrier #1, #2…#n creates a macro data base, from which reliable industry/equipment/practice conclusions can be made. The individual details may mean little, but when aggregated, the relevant numbers can be tested against predictive models and establish valid conclusions. There are highly qualified experts in analyzing these accumulated numbers and extrapolating those small incidents against a larger universe.

The IG’s conclusion that these micro data reports should be shared with the field is wrong; the professionals who work in local offices have not the analytical tools to determine what an appropriate response may be. What they do receive, on a timely basis, is a stream of recommendations, made by the headquarters’ experts who are competent to derive corrective actions. The field then can, and will, use these conclusions to work with the carriers to implement them.

To make a valid attack of the FAA’s ASIAS practices requires a comprehensive knowledge of the data and its appropriate uses. When the Pope speaks ex cathedra, his flock can rely on his dictates. The Trib needs to recognize that, while the IG has many useful criticisms of the FAA, that DoT office is not infallible.

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